For several years now, I have been mulling over a nagging question: “What is church?” How do you know the difference between a Bible study and church? Is there a difference?
In Bible College and Seminary, I attended daily chapel services. Nearly every chapel service began with announcements, had a few songs and a prayer time, and finished with a message from a speaker. How is this different than the Sunday church service?
The seminary told us that chapel does not qualify as church. But why not? What is church? The chapels had singing, teaching, and prayer. We even had fellowship groups, and occasionally in chapel, took communion. Why is this not church?
Or, take the recent introduction of the online church. Can you really be involved with and “attend” a church from your computer at work or at home in your pajamas? If not, why not?
And when it comes to church, how many people need to be present? Can one believer in a prison cell in China have their own church service, or does there need to be a minimum of 2 or 3 people gathered together? And what are these 2 or 3 supposed to do, how often, and where? In a recent book by George Barna (Revolution), he implies that a group of four men can be a church out on the golf course if they encourage and edify one another spiritually. If this is true, why can’t we go to church while shopping at the mall, or camping at the lake?
What is Church?
When it comes to the question of “What is Church?” Here is my preliminary hypothesis:
The church is the universal and spiritual body of believers in Jesus Christ:
- Which began on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2
- Gathers together in various physical locations for:
- Exaltation of God by glorifyinig Him through a life lived in worship
- Edification of one another through teaching, fellowship, and prayer
- Evangelism of the world through social and spiritual acts of service
So, what do you think? Even before we begin to break this down and look at Biblical passages related to it, are there things you feel I should add or take out? What are the ramifications of such a definition for the way churches are today?
How do you answer the question, “What is Church?” Let us know in the comments below.
Note: This post was written in 2007, and launched me on a study about the church, much of which is found in various other posts on this blog. Some of the results of this study about the church can be found in my eBook, Skeleton Church. In that book, I attempt to answer the question, “What is church?” by providing a bare-bones definition of church.